Why Mud Play?
It was only in the late 1800s that widespread knowledge of the relationship between personal hygiene and health began to proliferate. Records show that people seldom bathed before the 19th century, so much so that King Louis XIV of France is said to have taken a bath only twice in his whole adult lifetime!
In the 1880s Louis Pasteur discovered that microbes are disease carrying, a breakthrough that set off a public health movement in the global west, leading to the introduction and advertising of soap to wash one’s hands daily! The world has since taken to cleaning and hygiene quite seriously, a phenomenon further exacerbated by discoveries of new diseases like, for example, in much recent times, the COVID-19 virus.
While cleanliness and hygiene are undoubtedly crucial in maintaining one’s health, there exists an interesting paradox that warrants exploration. This is the paradox of mud play, a seemingly messy and unhygienic activity, that is increasingly being recognized as an essential part of childhood development. On close observation, one will notice how mud play bolsters creativity in children by activating their imaginations and allowing for a sense of agency to do as one pleases, with this squishy, slimy, moldable material.
Research has indicated that mineral rich, toxin free mud, has a therapeutic effect that can and is being used to treat ailments ranging from eczema to aching backs and fibromyalgia amongst others. Furthermore, healthy bacteria found in mud is known to replenish and fortify the body’s inner microbiome, making children (and adults) less susceptible to widespread diseases. If this isn’t reason enough to take a mud bath already, you should know that, contact with mud, is also know to alleviate stress and enhance one’s overall mood.
All of this goes to say that mud is just great, it is nothing short of a miracle worker and it deserves to be a crucial part of every child’s play itinerary! As a little dose of inspiration to prompt your next play time in the park, here are a few photographs of mud playgrounds from around the world.
Mud Playgrounds Around The World
1. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Singapore
2. Valby Park, Copenhagen, Denmark
3. Gärtner Reich at the egaPark, Erfurt, Germany
4. Point Turton Natural Playground & Bike Track, South Australia
5. Komazawa Harappa Play Park, Tokyo Japan
6. Nerima Kodomono Mori, Tokyo Japan
7. The Land of Eagles” playground, Leningrad region, Russia
8. Norddeich National Park Promenade, Germany
9. Qionglin Water Mist Nature Playground, Xionglin, Taiwan
10. Paperbark Play Space, Australia
DIY Mud Play
If you’re wondering what to do with mud once you have some mud freely available, here is a list of ideas to get you started!
- Collect small samples of different coloured mud from around your city, dilute them to make mud paint and then using a paintbrush paint some beautifully brown pictures with it!
- Visit your local park in the monsoons to design a muddy obstacle course where children have to jump over and crawl through patches of mud.
- Set up an out-door mud kitchen, preferably with the bloon kitchen set, where children can pretend-play cooking activities using mud.
- Bury objects like toy dinosaurs and little minerals in a trough of mud or in your backyard and have children dig them up while pretending to be archaeologists!
- Mix one spoon of coffee powder and one spoon of cocoa powder with a cupful of your favourite organic mud. Add a little water, mix allow children to use this as a body and face mask to have fun with!
- Create muddy car racing tracks that children can race their matchbox cars through. Place a trough of water at the end and have the children wash the vehicles before bringing them back in.
- Make sculptures of fossils and faces using only mud!
- Plant some seeds in a pot of mud. Watch them grow while you actively care for the mud over a couple of months and years.
- Give children magnifying glasses and let them explore baskets of mud from different places to see what they find. Encourage children to notice the different colours, textures and life forms in the different mud samples.
- Have a mud fight! Visit a local park or a friend's backyard for a good old fashioned mud fight!